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Fiat Panda plant gets lean award 071112

Fiat Panda plant gets lean award – but is on short time work

By Andrew Marsh, 09.11.12
Posted in: Manufacturer Profiles | Public

Fiat has built small cars for many decades with style, character which are usually immensely attractive to both European as well as the main export markets of South America. They have struggled to produce convincing competitors for the C segment (Ford Focus / Volkswagen Golf) and really come off second best in the larger D segment (Ford Fusion_Mondeo / Volkswagen Passat).

Fiat started production of the last Panda in Poland during 2003 and it formed the bedrock of the automotive division income during the turbulent years that saw GM almost buy Fiat (but had a disastrously expensive joint venture instead), Fiat almost buy out Opel and then – the most audacious move of all – Fiat take over Chrysler Group without any cash.  Throughout the plant in Poland increased output and sold more Pandas along with 500s.

As a sling shot off the Fiat 500 programme which is now a truly global car, the Panda was replaced in 2012 – the start up of production was problematic because it was shifted the Pomigliano D’Arco plant in Italy, and the very first deliveries were hampered by a national strike. Since then the demand has softened, to the point that so far this year – given production effectively commenced in April 2012 – the plant has spent a total of 5 weeks out of action so far over and above planned shut-downs.

With some irony the Pomigliano D’Arco plant was given a lean manufacturing awared on 7th November 2012, at the Leipzig Convention Centre during the 7th International Congress organised by Automobil Produktion and Agamus Consult. One supposes producing nothing amounts to supreme lean.

The Fiat structural problems remained – over reliance on a shrinking European market and especially the Italian domestic market, along with too many factories producing vehicles with build costs which ate too high. The leadership of Fiat-Chrysler know this well, and have repeatedly warned the Italian Government that unless there is room to make business decisions many more plants will close. For the good workers at Pomigliano D’Arco, the lean manufacturing award is truly double edged.


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